7 Steps for Turning Difficult Conversations into Successful Relationships
Is there a conversation that you need to have but are avoiding because you know it will be difficult or create conflict?
It is uncomfortable dealing with conflict and being the “bearer of bad news.” It can be embarrassing or awkward to tell a friend or colleague that they have bad breath or have made a costly mistake. We also fear not being liked if we assert our boundaries.
As a result, we tend to avoid difficult conversations. Sometimes we think it would be better to avoid the conflict and the situation will resolve itself. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. And in fact, if left unaddressed these situations can actually become worse. Most importantly we lose self-respect and miss out on the positive potential that could result from a well-managed or well-crafted interaction.
Chances are if you approach difficult conversations with the right preparation you can achieve a positive outcome and develop a lasting and successful alliance or relationship.
Turning Discomfort into Success
Tackling difficult conversations can actually be opportunities for self-growth and discovery. They provide an opportunity to develop leadership skills and can result in career growth such as a raise or promotion. Additionally, they can improve the quality of your relationships with your colleagues, partner, spouse or friends. Ultimately, by successfully managing difficult conversations you can gain self-confidence and a greater sense of self.
Follow these 7 Easy Steps
The reality is that you can craft positive outcomes from difficult conversations. You just need the right tools. Start by following these 7 easy steps:
Before you meet, take the time to prepare for the conversation. Create a roadmap to success by asking yourself what outcome you want?
Know your triggers beforehand. We all have hot spots. Knowing what these are ahead of time can help you avoid unwanted and destructive reactions.
- Emotions: Be cognizant of what emotions might manifest during the conversation. Recognize how you can defuse these emotions simply by being aware of them.
- Obstacles: What are the potential obstacles that could prevent you from finding resolution? Brainstorm ways that you can overcome these obstacles.
We all have ways that we see the world based on our values, beliefs, religion and culture. This affects how we see others and conversely, how they see us. Be aware and respectful of these factors when communicating with the other person. Insensitivity to these factors may cause an emotional reaction and make the situation worse.
Consider the other person:
- What outcome might they want?
- What challenges do they face?
- What emotions might they feel during the conversation?
- What obstacles might present themselves from their perspective?
What positive opportunities might arise from this conversation? Make a list of the potential benefits for both yourself and the other person.
5. Compassionate Communication
You may have the best of intentions but if your communication is violent, you will derail your best intentions. You can practice non-violent communication by remembering these important tips:
- Facts: Express yourself in a neutral, non-combative way. Avoid making personal valuations and judgments and focus purely on the facts.
- Listen & Reflect: Throughout the conversation make sure you listen to the other person. Then, reflect back to them what you are hearing in terms of their fears, needs and goals.
- Repeat: If you don’t feel you are being heard, don’t hesitate to reiterate your concerns or position but always in a neutral, consistent tone.
- Avoid: If you can, avoid making threats about negative outcomes. This will alienate the other person making it impossible to reach your goal of a positive outcome.
- Time-Outs: If things start to get heated, call a time-out. It must be a timed time-out, not open ended, which is nothing more than a power play.
The key to lasting change is if both parties have a valued interest and share the final goal. To achieve this you can jointly agree to the final conclusion. This can be achieved by doing the following:
- Feedback: Ask for the other person’s perspective on the situation? Is there something that you don’t know?
- Common Ground: Is there a shared outcome? Shared emotion? Shared obstacles? Explore this together.
- Make a List: What can you both agree on? What do you both need?
- Jointly Come to an Agreement: How are you going to solve this situation together to your mutual benefit?
7. Follow Up
If appropriate, follow up after the conversation with any deliverables, action items or activities. If boundaries have been expressed and agreed upon, make sure they are maintained by both parties.
This final step is crucial to show your commitment to the relationship and agreed upon resolution. It is key to maintaining your agreement and create a lasting, positive outcome and relationship.
Do you need help with your relationships, learning how to hold and maintain healthy boundaries?
For more information on resolving conflict and developing positive, fulfilling relationships contact Rolf Schrader at his Vancouver Counselling Office. You can also learn more about Relationship Counselling.
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